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Owner may close Fargo toll bridge

MOORHEAD -- The toll bridge between Fargo and Moorhead remains under water, but even after the flood recedes the span may stay closed.

The president of Bridge Co., which owns and operates the structure, says unless Moorhead agrees to a five-year extension of the operating agreement between Moorhead, Fargo and Bridge Co., he will leave the bridge closed.

Clifford "Kip" Moore said he needs a loan to pay for $100,000 worth of repairs and back taxes on the bridge, but he said a loan can't be repaid in the two years remaining before the operating agreement with the cities expires.

In 2013, Fargo and Moorhead will have two options: they could assume ownership of the bridge, though it may mean paying off remaining debt, or they could extend the operating agreement another five years, to 2018, after which the cities would take ownership free of debt.

Moore has estimated the cities could be responsible for more than $600,000 worth of debt if they take ownership in 2013.

Moorhead officials estimate the "authorized" debt the cities could be responsible for in 2013 could be close to $300,000.

Moore said some of the bridge's problems have arisen from the fact that since it was built in the late 1980s the bridge has flooded more often than anticipated, 11 times versus the two or three times builders had expected.

In addition to the cost of repairs, Moore said it takes months for drivers to start using the bridge again after flooding.

Fargo has agreed to give Moore a five-year extension.

Moore said if Moorhead doesn't follow suit, he will have to close the bridge.

"I'm going to barricade the bridge sometime next week," said Moore, who was not in attendance this past Monday when the Moorhead City Council met and talked about a letter Moore sent the city explaining again his need for an extension.

The council, which tabled a similar request in December, took no action Monday, except to direct staff to arrange a meeting with Fargo officials to begin talks on how the two cities will operate the bridge once it becomes public property.

Moore said Wednesday he would have been at the meeting if he had known his letter was going to be discussed.

Nancy Otto, a Moorhead council member who has stated she would like to see the bridge in public hands as soon as possible, reiterated her position Wednesday.

She said it would be unfortunate if Moore proceeds with his plans to close the bridge and she said his plans will likely prompt the City Council to revisit the issue of an extension "soon."

Dave Olson is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.